The Limmud mission, which emphasizes learning, diversity and community, has proven to be a compelling set of values. These values are central to international groups. Studies have shown that Limmud participants are highly likely to travel internationally and recognize that they are part of a global community. However, this is not enough. The question that needs to be addressed entails how being a member of an international community can help us strengthen the Jewish people.
It was conducted at Limmud Conference in December 2015. Limmud participants were interviewed by JVN volunteers at the Conference with extra responses collected from Limmud participants online in January. 139 respondents took part in the survey, with a good representation across age groups, gender, employment status, location and volunteering experience (both general and with Limmud).
The results identify scope for improvement in volunteer recruitment and volunteer support by Limmud. It recommends a set of actions that could be taken by Limmud to help with this.
The study focuses on Limmud volunteers and draws on a survey of ten Limmud volunteer communities in eight countries - UK, USA, South Africa, Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Israel and Argentina - together with focus groups conducted with Limmud volunteers from around the world.
The findings provide clear evidence that Limmud advances the majority of its volunteers on their Jewish journeys, and for a significant proportion it takes them ‘further’ towards greater interest in and commitment to Jewish life.
Limmud’s principle impact on its volunteers lies in making new friends and contacts, encountering different kinds of Jews and enhancing a sense of connection to the Jewish people. For many Limmud volunteers, their experience has increased their Jewish
knowledge, their leadership skills and their involvement in the wider Jewish community. Involvement in Limmud therefore enhances both the desire to take further steps on their Jewish journeys, and the tools for doing so.
Limmud impacts equally on Jews regardless of denominationand religious practice. The younger the volunteers and the less committed they are when they begin their Limmud journeys, the further Limmud takes them. Those with more senior levels of involvement in Limmud report higher levels of impact on their Jewish journeys than other volunteers, as do those who had received a subsidy or training from Limmud.
Limmud volunteers often have difficult experiences and risk burnout and
exhaustion. While volunteers generally view the gains as worth the cost, Limmud
needs to pay attention to this issue and provide further support.
The study demonstrates that Limmud's educational philosophy is heavily grounded in the interaction of competing tensions, or polarities, on multiple levels. Major categorical distinctions drawn in educational philosophy and practice, and Jewish and general sociology, are both maintained and allowed to interact. This interaction takes place in a "hospitable and charged" environment – one that is simultaneously safe, respectful and comfortable, whilst also edgy, powerful and challenging - that allows the individual freedom to explore and navigate the contours of Jewish community, and the Jewish community opportunity to envelope and nurture the experience of the individual. The study suggests that the interaction of these competing forces, in the context of an intensive Jewish experience, may be an important feature of Jewish educational initiatives attempting to respond to the identity challenges described above. More generally, in detailing a contemporary educational model that sustains religious/ethnic identity whilst emphasising critical thought and openness to competing claims and ideas, it presents an approach that may be applicable in other religious and ethnic communities.